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Witchcraft and Inquisition in Early Modern Venice Hardcover – August 8, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"In a beautifully nuanced exploration of the treatment of maleficio or malevolent witchcraft by the Venetian Inquisition, Jonathan Seitz opens fresh perspectives by probing the uncertain boundary between natural and supernatural affliction - especially those offered by two types of experts, exorcists and physicians - in an unusually cosmopolitan and sophisticated corner of early modern Europe." - E. William Monter, Professor Emeritus of History, Northwestern University

"This carefully researched and thoroughly engrossing book examines one of the key features of modernity: the hard-won distinction between the natural and the supernatural. Meticulously examining sixteenth- and seventeenth-century witchcraft trials in Venice, Seitz dissects and lays bare the mechanisms by which the Inquisition struggled to demarcate natural and supernatural agency in cases of alleged witchcraft. In the process, Seitz recovers a lost world in which casting beans could forecast love and finding a bundle of feathers under a pillow could reveal the causes of an illness. With remarkable insight, Seitz challenges traditional interpretations of the relation between popular and elite cultures and teases out of the archives a subtle new understanding of the 'disenchantment' of the world. It is a book not only for specialists in Italian history, but one with profound lessons for anyone interested in the history of popular culture and the origins of modernity." - William Eamon, Regents Professor of History at New Mexico State University and author of The Professor of Secrets: Mystery, Medicine and Alchemy in Renaissance Italy

"Jonathan Seitz has written an engaging, elegant book that reveals the tremendous gap between the theory of witchcraft and the reality of witchcraft prosecutions in Venice. Although the belief in supernatural harm did not wane, the Venetian Holy Office failed to convict anyone of the crime. Seitz convincingly shows that the natural explanations of early science failed to disenchant Venice, and that the practical difficulties of witchcraft trials led to the habitual conclusion, 'nothing proven.'" - Edward Muir, Clarence L. Ver Steeg Professor in the Arts and Sciences, Northwestern University and author of The Culture Wars of the Late Renaissance: Skeptics, Libertines and Opera

"He (Seitz) not only provides many insights into a broad range of beliefs and practices in early modern Venice but also tackles broader historical questions including the impact of the Counter-Reformation, the relationship between elite and popular culture, the role of medicine and science, and the disenchantment of European society."
-Stephen D. Bowd,University of Edinburgh

"...a penetrating study not only of the inner workings of the Venetian tribunal but also of the mental universe of early modern Venetians, and the slow progress toward the separation of the natural and the supernatural." -Thomas Deutscher, H-Italy

"...synthesizes the structures and procedures of the Venetian Inquisition with great lucidity." -James S. Grubb, The Journal of Modern History

Book Description

In early modern Europe, ideas about nature, God, demons, and occult forces were inextricably connected. Much ink and blood was spilled in defining and characterizing nature and the supernatural. This work uses records of Inquisition witchcraft trials in Venice to uncover how individuals understood these two categories. This book illuminates the complex forces shaping early modern beliefs.

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